Thursday, March 11, 2010
"It turned out to be the greatest experience of my life."
I worked in Casualty Receiving, which was the emergency room that all the patients came through when they arrived. The first two weeks were extremely busy but well-organized. Though I was a volunteer translator, I had the chance to do a lot more than just translating—holding down patients during painful procedures, washing them, feeding those who couldn’t feed themselves because of their new disability, or who were just too weak to do it themselves. It was a humbling experience.
I have many wonderful but sad stories that will always stay with me, but here is one I would like to share: Casualty Receiving was not very busy during the last week of my stay, and most of the patients I normally would visit during my off hours had been transferred to onshore hospitals. I started to visit the pediatrics ward where I brought goodies. One day a girl about 10 years of age called me. “Zanmi, zanmi vini pale ou,” she said. “My friend, can I talk to you a second?” She was lying on a transport bed and was paralyzed from back injuries. The girl had a wonderful smile, and I later found out that she was loved by many volunteers. She was escorted by her aunt, who was not with her at the moment.
The girl asked if I had a pen and a sheet of white paper. Her request was very specific—she knew exactly what she wanted. I jokingly asked if I could give her a pencil instead, since I didn't want to part with my only pen, which I needed to take down numbers to call for patients who needed to contact relatives. I asked her why she wanted a pen. I figured she needed to draw, but she wanted to write a “thank you” letter to the people on the boat. She was pleased with our efforts and grateful for how we cared for her and loved her. That small child was one of many who made me feel I was there for a purpose.
–Emmanuel Guerrier, Queens, NY